Just so I don’t step on the “Weekend Gaming” posts, I’m moving these to Thursday.
Overview: What if someone made God of War into a sandbox game?
Pricing: $10 to $15 used and $15 to $20 new. Although I can easily find it for $10 used about twice as often as I see it for $15, so save your pennies!
Rip-Off Warning: While not common, you can still find this game for $40 or $50 new.
Platform: XBox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3
Is it worth it?: The biggest problem Viking faces is that it is a game with an identity crisis. It promises epic battles, but there are zero real-time strategy elements. It has an “open world”, but you get the feeling there is a certain order of events and the game resents you for not playing along. In fact, some scripted lines still get played even though you may have already accomplished the quest they are talking about. The combat has a definite God of War vibe but with a terrible camera and Skarin, our protagonist, really has trouble tackling more than a couple of enemies at a time. Also, just for grins, there are stealth sections as well. As a badass hyper-muscled viking barbarian beserker he is exactly as good at stealth as you would expect.
Despite the identity crisis, or maybe because of it, there is actually a lot to keep a player amused and the first stage of the game is actually a lot of fun once you realize you can’t charge a hoard of twenty enemies. There is a definite change in pace keeping the protagonist from being a one man army and relying on raising his own forces for the larger battles. Taking control of dragons for the magical equivalent of airstrikes is a nice touch as well, but used way too sparingly. Unfortunately, in the larger battles for control of a territory, the player is often tasked to take on many enemies at once, which the combat system is just not well suited for.
The graphics are well done and incredibly visceral. Despite the ease at which Skarin can get overwhelmed, he can perform fatalities through a one button no penalty quick-time event which he brutally dismembers and/or decapitates his target. Surprisingly, this never gets old.
Unfortunately, this game wants to be like God of War so bad that they incorporate quick-time events into fighting enemy champions, which provides a more cinematic battle but turns it from an exercise in skill and timing into a frenetic version of “Simon”.
Final Judgement: Pass or purchase? I’m going with “Purchase” on this one. I frequently passed on it because neither the game box, the advertisements, marketing materials, or even other gamers seem to be able to describe what the game was about or even how it played. Viking is certainly trying to accomplish too much and does nothing well, but it does very little poorly either. This game is hours of amusement for very little money and while I finally began to tire of it on the second region (of three) the first third of the game was certainly worth playing.